Canucks outlasted the Bruins in third period, but how much did Game 1 really tell us?

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Many hockey players discuss the notion that momentum matters within the span of a single game, but might not transfer to future contests. By that logic, it seems like it might be dangerous to assume that results will repeat throughout any series. Yet Game 1 of the 2011 Stanley Cup finals seemed like even less of a sign of the times than we’re accustomed to.

In some ways, it almost felt like the penalty parade that took place in the first and second periods made the first 40 minutes unintelligible. Ultimately, we couldn’t take much from those opening frames other than brilliant goaltending by Tim Thomas and Roberto Luongo, Alex Burrows biting Patrice Bergeron’s hand and Dan Hamhuis seemingly hurting himself with his own hip check on Milan Lucic.

As time goes on, that Raffi Torres game-winning goal will define Game 1 on highlight reels. Ryan Kesler started things by forcing a Johnny Boychuk turnover in Boston’s zone. Kesler sent a great pass to Jannik Hansen (who had a great overall game) around the point area. Hansen then foiled both Zdeno Chara and an overly aggressive Thomas with his slick pass to Torres, who tapped the puck in with less than 19 seconds left in the game.

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Vancouver 1, Boston 0; Canucks lead series 1-0

After 13 penalties and 28 penalty minutes combined between both teams in the first two periods, the referees didn’t call a single penalty in the third period. The Canucks carried most of the play in those 20 minutes of uninterrupted 5-on-5 hockey. Vancouver out-shot Boston 14-10 in the third, but that shot differential still didn’t properly portray the Canucks’ advantages in puck control and scoring chances during that final frame.

It was a sloppy, rough and contentious Game 1. Deep down, it’s a bit drastic to draw too many conclusions from this contest since penalties really ruined much of the rhythm, but here are a few points to consider anyway.

Outlook for both teams

Some speculated that the Bruins were tired in the last 20 or just plain slow, but they shouldn’t be too discouraged by losing Game 1. Sure, it must be heartbreaking to lose with less than a minute left, but Thomas was brilliant and they proved they wouldn’t be pushovers in either zone.

Both teams should feel proud of their penalty kills and irritated by missed opportunities on the power plays, going 0-for-6 each. The Bruins might have received the greatest chances, receiving a lengthy 5-on-3 opportunity early in the second period after getting a four-minute double minor PP early in the first. The silver lining is that Boston produced a lot of shots during those two big opportunities in particular, firing nine shots on Luongo during the double-minor and three more on the 5-on-3.

The two other pluses were the play of Thomas and Zdeno Chara, who seemed to do a little bit of everything for the Bruins but couldn’t seal the deal.

The Canucks should feel great about this win, particularly their play in the third period, the fact that they matched Boston’s physicality and Roberto Luongo earned a 36-save shutout. The Sedin twins created some nice chances but couldn’t convert while Kesler was held in check for much of the game until his late-game assist washed all of that away. Vancouver forced Thomas to make some huge saves before they finally broke through, with perhaps his most exhilarating stop coming on a partial breakaway opportunity for Victor Oreskovich.

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One obvious area of concern for Vancouver is the health of Dan Hamhuis, who was banged up after delivering a hip check on Milan Lucic. Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said that Hamhuis is day-to-day after the hit and wouldn’t even reveal if it is an upper-body or lower-body injury. It’s unclear whether he’ll play in Game 2 or not, but an extra night of rest my improve his chances of playing on Saturday.

Overall, the Canucks shouldn’t be too high after narrowly winning Game 1 while the Bruins should stay positive since they were able to hang in there. Stick with PHT for updates, previews and analysis as the 2011 Stanley Cup finals continue.